Beng Mealea

Cambodia November-December 2016 (20 photos)

Beng Mealea is one of the largest temples of the Angkor period, built around the mid 12th century. It has mixed Buddhism and Hinduism origins.

It reopened to tourism in the early 2000s after the landmines were finally cleared from the temple grounds. After all, just as with bullet-ridden Phnom Bakheng in my post Lignum Draco and the Temples of Doom (3) this was another real life temple of doom which the Khmer Rouge army used as a base.

The central sanctuary area is completely in ruins and wooden causeways have been built to enable access.

The rest of the temple isn’t in much better condition.

Ta Nei

Ta Nei is commonly known as the lost temple. Due to its isolation in a forested area of Angkor it receives very few visitors. Apart from my guide, no one else was there during my visit. It is only a small Buddhist temple, built in the late 12th – early 13th century.


East of Siem Reap is the Roluos group of temples, of which the temple of Bakong is the most significant. It is a Hindu temple built in the late 9th century. It is considered to be the first major mountain-temple built in Angkor.

Preah Ko

Another of the Roluos group of temples, this is a smaller temple also built in the late 9th century. Again, Hindu in origin.

Prasat Thom

Koh Ker is a former capital of the Khmer kingdom and a remote archaeological site in northern Cambodia about 120 kilometres (75 miles) away from Siem Reap. It is a jungle region that is sparsely populated. More than 180 temples were found in a protected area of 81 square kilometres (31 sq mi). However only a few can be visited by tourists because most of the sanctuaries are hidden in the forest and the whole area is not fully de-mined.

The most impressive temple of the Koh Ker region is at Prasat Thom. A Hindu structure built around the 10th century, the pyramidal structure known as Prang is 36 metres high.

Ascending to the peak of Prang is definitely worth the effort despite the heat and humidity of the typical Cambodian day. Atop the peak, one is rewarded with magnificent views of Cambodia, which is predominantly a flat country.

My guide and I were the only ones up there for quite a while; enjoying the views but also simply too tired to walk back down.

I took lots of selfies, and had several photos of me taken by my guide. To protect the innocent, none of those will ever be seen here. Sorry. πŸ™‚

Leica Etcetera, Photography Etcetera

Lignum Draco and the Temples of Doom (4)


60 thoughts on “Lignum Draco and the Temples of Doom (4)

    • Innocent? Of course. πŸ˜‰

      I had a backpack with tripod and camera gear. It was a tough climb in the heat/humidity but worth the effort, even if it did seem like some of the old wooden steps felt like they were going to break. There was no rush to climb back down. It was very very steep.

      • KG says:

        Just reading about that gives me the chill… I tried it in one of the Mayan pyramids in Mexico and after 1/4th of the climb, I sat down on the steps and refused to look down or up. Since I was on my own, I had to pick up the courage to climb down. Never again after that. πŸ˜€

        • I understand. The climb to the top level of Angkor Wat was by a near vertical staircase. One woman I saw must have gotten up there without trouble (obviously she didn’t look down on the way up) but couldn’t come back down. Basically she sat on each step and slowly slid onto the next one down with 2 friends on the steps below to catch her if necessary.

  1. Your selfies are as hidden as those forbidden sanctuaries. πŸ˜‰I am impressed by the number of temples you visited, especially the lesser known ones. That’s where I’d be hanging out.

    • I exercise self control when it comes to selfies, unlike a lot of tourists I see.

      At any time of the day, when it is open to visitors, there will be thousands at or near Angkor Wat. The true serenity comes when you can just find a temple which is truly abandoned and crumbling or overwhelmed by the jungle. Then you can just breathe it in. I was lucky to find that calm at several temples that I visited.

  2. Great shots! It’s amazing how many hidden temples complexes there seem to be. We visited Beng Mealea, but I never even heard of these other complexes. I really like the look of Prasat Thom and being able to climb to the top. It reminds me of climbing a Mayan temple in Mexico because the area is flat too and you can just see the countryside laid out before you.

    • Thank you. Fortunately I had 9 days in Angkor and the surrounding region, so I spent a lot of time at smaller and remote temples where hardly any tourists go to. It’s vastly different to Ta Prohm for example, and all the hawkers you see there.

      It was odd seeing that pyramidal structure at Prasat Thom. I guess there is symbolism in its shape. Despite the heat, there was no way I wan’t going to climb it. πŸ™‚

    • Thank you, Norma. The landmine signs got me a bit worried, but I understand the situation is much improved to how it was even only a few years ago. Temples surrounded by landmines – what a paradox.

    • Thank you very much. You do realise that I carry waiver forms that all who know my identity must sign. Because who is Indiana jones without his hat? Who is Batman without the mask? Who is lignum Draco?

      • Very nice, like a magician, keep the secret because when you know the trick, the magic is lost.

        Found this quote that describes the Wood Dragon…seems to fit the magic analogy and your escapades πŸ˜‰

        “To the Chinese, the Dragon is born in the most desirable year. Possessing magical powers, the versatile Dragon is capable of soaring to the highest heavenly heights or diving to the depths of the sea. “

  3. Wonderful ancient sites you walked us through, Draco. I enjoyed the uniqueness of these temples built so very long ago, and the overgrowth, the destruction, the piles of debris, the emptiness without a lot of people, the forest, the sacredness mixed with the effects of time.

    • You’ve described my time at the temples well. I did particularly enjoy the smaller temples with no other tourists around. And at those locations, you meet local villagers, not hawkers. Thanks for stopping by.

  4. Heide says:

    How lucky you were to get off the beaten path a bit and see some of the lesser-known temples. I feel privileged to tag along vicariously through your wonderful writing and gorgeous images. Thank you!

    • Thank you. I like to get away from the tourist hordes when I can and see the real countryside and people. To think that some of these temples were built in the 9th and 10th centuries just boggles my mind. Thanks for stopping by.

    • The main temples and surrounding areas are cleared of explosives and landmines and are safe. But you wouldn’t want to wander into the jungle and unmarked paths around the smaller temples, just to be safe. Uncleared areas are often marked with signs.

  5. No selfies? ;-(
    Your photos make me feel like to go there again. Had I seen your photos before I went in 2007, I would bring back a different set of photos, I think.
    I have a suspicion that your tour guide somehow chased people away…
    Why are they so many temples there? (Is this a not-smart question?) It’s amazing.
    Have a great day.

    • Funny, I often think that I would like to go back to places I visited years ago and re-photgraph them, now that I am not using a 2MP point and shoot camera and have more experience and knowledge photographically. San Francisco, New York and Beijing are high on my list in that regard. We mature over time and this affects our photography.

      You’re right, my guide would often ask people to move out of my way so I could get a clear shot. All part of the service. πŸ™‚

      The ancient Khmer Kings believed in building temples to honour their Gods and Ancestors. Each new King would build new ones and over a few centuries, they became larger and grander in their design.

      Have a good week ahead, too.

  6. What a treat to view again and again of this magnificent shots of this majestic place, in black and white and in colors! Can’t imagine miles of walking…
    Thank you for the grand tour, Dragon!!

    • Thank you, Amy. When possible, I like to have a really good look around the places that I visit because there is so much to see. I’m glad I extended my trip to 9 days from my original plan.I could have even spent longer and gone to other parts of the country, but that will have to wait for another time.

  7. I know nothing about these, other than the fact that I think they are SO beautiful. Do you think anyone will ever try to restore them at some point?
    Thank you so much for sharing these wonderful images.

    • Because there are so many temples, I was told there is a management plan. Some of the temples will be restored. Others will be preserved in the condition that you see them today. Some others will be allowed to fall into complete ruin and not be restored. And still, more temples are being discovered.

      Thanks for visiting Cambodia with me, Lisa. Have a wonderful week ahead.

  8. I’m so impressed with your trip and how much territory you covered with your guide. And how nice to have most of these fabulous ruins almost to yourself. You’re able to gain a whole new perspective of a place with the stillness and quiet of solitude. Love your photos!

    • Thank you, Elisa. I’m happy I changed my original planned visit from 4 days to 9 days. I enjoyed my time in that ancient land. Overwhelming at times but good to enjoy some solitude.

  9. totalmente affascinata, anche dalle grandi sequenze diversificate, credo sia stata una grande avventura…tu e la tuaq guida in quell’oceano di vegetazione…quanto occorrerΓ  perchΓ© la foresta inghiotta tutto? sembra che non si prendano provvedimenti, purtroppo
    grazie per averci permesso di osservare queste meraviglie
    felice sera

  10. Thank you for the tour. I’m actually amazed that the temples aren’t more overgrown after 6 centuries or more. Or have they only been neglected in the last 75 since the SE Asian wars? My favourite shot is Ta Nei 2.

    • They would have been completely overgrown when “rediscovered” a hundred years or so ago. I’m guessing they were all cleared to some extent and what we see to day is leftover from that clearance.

      Thank you.

    • It’s fascinating to see how much detail still exists even now, despite the ravages of time. Hiring a guide is definitely the way to go unless you need to be on a tour. It’s supporting a local directly, and definitely value for money.

  11. Such an extraordinary place, there must be so much to photograph here!! Still keep thinking about the years it took to build this, and the skill, incredible skill, it must have been. Absolutely love the sunlight and shadows… a bit of sunlight makes everything sparkle and come alive!! πŸ™‚

    • Thanks, Suzy. I think I visited more than 30 temples and enjoyed every moment of it. Not just for the photography but also for the history. “Being in awe” describes my sentiment well. I would love to have photographed some of the temples at different times of the day and in different light to project a different character.

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